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OWNER'S MANUAL

The Power of Praise

Do you only pay lip service to the value of praise and recognition? Here's a good way to find out.
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Someone you know deserves recognition: an employee, a vendor, a customer, a connection, a company. Someone has done something awesome for you.

They labored. They sacrificed. They went above and beyond and well past the extra mile.

You naturally want to recognize them. In fact, you'd love to praise them publicly, so everyone will know how awesome they truly are.

Great! Recognize them here, in an extremely public setting.

Here's how it works. In the comments, mention someone and praise them. Be specific. Use names (unless there's a great reason not to.) Don't just say, "Wow, ACME Manufacturing is awesome!" Say why. Say how. Explain what ACME did. Explain how ACME helped you, or made a difference for you, or just made your day better.

For example, here's something that happened to me:

I pulled my car into a service bay to get my oil changed. As I got out, Julian, one of the techs, said, "Man, those are nice wheels. Too bad they're so dirty." He smiled to show he was teasing. (At least I think he was.)

"I know," I said. "My next stop is the car wash." Then I went inside to wait.

When I walked to my car to leave he was just standing up, filthy rags in his hand. "Took some work, but I got 'em all clean," Julian said. Every rim sparkled. Every speck of brake dust was gone.

"Wow, that's awesome--but you didn't have to do that," I said.

"We're not very busy," he shrugged. "I had time. Figured I would make 'em look better." Another car pulled in and he hustled away, saying over his shoulder, "Have a good day."

Simple--and awesome. Few people use their free time to do something nice for someone else. Few people use their free time to do something nice, not because they're expected to but simply because they can.

Now it's your turn. Share your story.

Then send that person a note. Say, "Hey, I really appreciate what you did for me and I want everyone to know how much I appreciate it, so I left a comment where everyone will see how awesome you are."

Then encourage that person to do the same.

I know what you're going to say. Don't. Don't say you're too busy. Don't say it's too much trouble. Don't say handing out praise is someone else's job. Don't say that you don't receive enough recognition. So why should you go out of your way to recognize others?

Everyone feels that praise is in short supply. Be one of the people who actually does something about it.

When you do, what happens to the people you recognize? They feel better about themselves. Genuine recognition rewards effort and accomplishment, reinforces positive behaviors, builds self-esteem and confidence, and boosts motivation and enthusiasm.

Unexpected praise, like a gift given "just because," is even more powerful and makes an even bigger impact.

What happens to you? You'll instantly feel better about yourself. Nothing beats making a positive difference in another person's life.

Every day people around you do good things. Praise one of those people, sincerely and specifically, in this very public setting. They'll love it.

You'll love it.

And by reading your comments, the rest of us will learn new ways to labor, to sacrifice, and to go above and beyond and well past the extra mile--and be exceptional, too.

Let the praise and recognition begin!

IMAGE: Chicasso/Getty
Last updated: Dec 18, 2012

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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